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Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse Survivors Have a Voice

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and Shannon M. Deitz, author, speaker, and founder of Hopeful Hearts Ministry offers hope to survivors. One in every four women is beaten or raped by a partner during adulthood. One in every four girls and nearly one in every six boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18. Until recent years, these widespread problems were rarely made public.

Through the I Have a Voice video project, Dietz encourages survivors to give voice to their pasts. This crucial project consists of ten intensely moving videos, all with a collective purpose to help survivors recognize the abuse they have suffered and expose the truth. Through this they understand they are not alone and that abuse does not define them. The survivor can overcome being a victim and realize the full potential of their lives moving forward. In the most recent video, Victoria shares her difficult story: “I was told all my life that I didn’t matter, I heard it so much that is all I knew and I believed it. I believed I was worthless. But I know better now. I know God loves me and has a future for me”.

Through an online survey Deitz conducted new data and revealed interesting information regarding domestic abuse survivors. 98% of survivors polled indicated that they had suffered abuse by a family member during childhood. Deitz comments “I found that women who have suffered through domestic violence in past relationships have lost nearly all sense of identity and the natural boundaries that come with simple dignity and self-respect. They suffered mental and psychological abuse before the abuse ever turned physical.”

Many survivors of domestic violence also suffered some form of mental and emotional abuse or neglect during their childhood. With this in mind Hopeful Hearts has added a support group program on the topic of boundaries as well as a self-defense course that includes a focus on inner strength and self-worth.

Deitz recently shared her story with a group of incarcerated women. “The universal language of those who have suffered abuse enables Shannon Deitz to speak to their hearts. This was amazingly demonstrated during her recent speaking engagement at the Carol Young Unit of Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Female inmates are the epitome of women who have been the victims of every imaginable abuse for the majority of their lives. Shannon quickly connected with them in a way no one ever has,” comments Deacon Sid Cammeresi.

Raising public awareness of the prevalence and the insidious nature of abuse is vital. People may not realize that domestic violence rarely begins with actual violence. More often, it starts with emotional and verbal abuse. This erodes their self-confidence and self-worth and causes the victim to question their instincts. Ultimately, this dominance can turn to violence when the victim begins to show signs of defiance. “Most domestic violence fatalities occur when the victim has left the abuser,” comments Deitz.

Abuse changes things forever, but healing is possible if the choice is made to overcome the victim mentality and work hard to become a survivor.

To hear Victoria’s story please click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Thwe-b947Hg&feature=em-share_video_user
For more information please visit www.HopefulHeartsMinistry.com.

Hopeful Hearts Ministry is a faith-based 501 c3 non-profits which supports the long-term recovery of survivors of all forms of abuse through peer support sessions, counseling, programs that empower, and public awareness services.

Faith, Fear and Fighting Abuse

Sexual violence, including child sexual abuse, spans across all ages, genders, races, ethnicities, and economic backgrounds. According to a Child Maltreatment report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Children’s Bureau, 60,956 cases of child sexual abuse were reported in the United States in 2013. On top of the guilt and shame that abuse can bring, most victims know their attackers, which can lead them to be silent about their traumatic experience. Staying silent, however, does not lead to healing, according to Shannon Deitz, abuse survivor and founder of Hopeful Hearts Ministry.

Recently speaking at Baylor University Chapel Deitz specifically addressed sexual assault and date rape. Shannon comments “In helping survivors recognize the abuse they have suffered and being able to speak about it allows a deeper level of healing.” Through Hopeful Hearts, survivors receive compassionate support from a trusted peer and are able to realize that the abuse they have endured does not define them as a person. As a result, they are able to rise above victimization, embrace their full potential, and thrive.
“Both sexual assault and child abuse are so devastating that most of us don’t even want to think about them being present in our society. This makes it extremely difficult for any victim of assault or abuse to feel comfortable enough to speak out, which is exactly what they need to be able to do. Be it a child, a teenager or an adult, anyone who has been abused needs to be able to speak about what has been done to them without question or judgment.,” comments Dietz. With this in mind, Hopeful Hearts Ministry started the “I Have a Voice” abuse awareness project where survivors share their personal stories of abuse (domestic, sexual, incest, rape, neglect, emotional and verbal) through intensely personal and honest YouTube videos. The nine videos have been viewed more than 5,000 times and show the power of giving a VOICE to survivors that was once kept hidden, and not only aides in their personal healing, but shows others they are not alone and there is reason for hope.

Five years later, Hopeful Hearts Ministry has outgrown its facility and the number of survivors from all of over the world receiving peer support, Christian counseling, and attending the programs it offers has grown exponentially. The organization receives at least two to three calls a week from new survivors seeking healing support. “It’s a catch 22 with the growth of our organization,” said Deitz. “On the one hand, I would rather be out of this business because there are no more survivors to help. But until then, I will continue to do what it takes to offer the programs and services needed to help survivors thrive in this life.”
Hopeful Hearts has served over 350 abuse survivors on four continents with individual and group peer support sessions. 90% of these individuals are female; and 75% have survived sexual abuse. Deitz has participated in over 60 public advocacy opportunities for abuse survivors.
With firsthand experience, Deitz understands the pain and stigma of being a survivor of sexual abuse both as a child and as an adult. She sees the month of April as an opportunity to encourage other survivors to speak up and speak out, knowing that it is a crucial step towards healing. “The shame, despair and inability to cope with the painful events can lead to depression as well as dangerous behavior, as survivors tend to seek other ways to block out the memories and dull the pain.” comments Deitz. “My goal is to help others see their worth and become the best they can be.” Through the power of her own testimony, she helps people see that they no longer have to live as a victim. They can begin a journey of healing because they are not defined by their past and they have immense value.

In her newest release, Redeemed (Hopeful Hearts Ministry October 2016), Deitz shares the struggles she has faced, including how she worked to overcome sexual intimacy issues, and abusive behaviors that carried over into parenting. Redeemed reveals the self-destructive behavior Shannon was led into because of the shame of rape and guilt of self-imposed inexcusable sin during her formative years. Deitz, in a gripping and riveting read, unfolds this truth through the continuation of her journey in accepting love, intimacy, worthiness, and forgiveness. Redeemed portrays Shannon’s ever strengthening love story with God as she struggles to accept the good gifts He has waiting for her, and the courage it takes to trust God and others, when her spirit has been so deeply wounded by sins of her past.
“Survivors want to know they are being heard and that they will be safe and protected,” explains Deitz. “We do not need to be silenced because our situation makes others feel uncomfortable. To the contrary, we need people around us who are willing to listen and willing to stand up for us if we choose to go public.” This focus in April is important because the more people who become aware of just how prevalent this problem is in our country, the more beneficial it will be for everyone. Being able to share our story with others serves to help prevent future abuse from taking place. If there is a survivor in your midst, be willing to listen. Be willing to hear their story.”




Q&A with Shannon M. Deitz Abuse Survivor and Founder of Hopeful Hearts

about shannon2I am a survivor of rape and incest. The years I kept the facts of these traumas within me led me down some dark paths that were filled with bad decisions based on my lack of worth and self-esteem. I want to educate and reach out to other survivors before they get entangled in that dark path and make decisions that can affect them for the rest of their life, adding to the trauma of what has been done or said to them in the past. – Shannon M. Deitz

Your first book, Exposed: Inexcusable Me…Irreplaceable Him, is a no-holds-barred accounting of your personal self-destructive journey and how, with God’s help, you triumphed. Why do you feel it is important for you to share your story?

When I began to live my life in the freedom of being a survivor, no longer tethered to chains of negativity, pessimism, and insecurity, I realized how much I longed to see others free from these same chains. I knew the only way to reach others was to tell my story in its truth and entirety. What affected me in my healing process was to hear other stories similar to mine and to witness their successful triumph and victory overcoming their past. I began to realize if they could do it, I could too. By writing EXPOSED I wanted to share both the stumbling and the victories so that others could relate and recognize that they could also be victorious over their past.

How has sharing your story with others helped you in your journey to healing?

The more you share the truth about your experience the easier it is to accept it and move passed it in order to embrace your present and future. By sharing my story through EXPOSED, speaking to groups and leading retreats, I find that it gives me strength and fortifies the healing process. What has been ‘done’ to me is a part of who I am, but it doesn’t define who I am. In fact, I’ve come to the place where I can thank God for every aspect of my life, the dark and ugly moments, along with the joyous times, because He has brought good from it all and allowed me to recognize that I am stronger because of it.

Low self-esteem, especially among teens, has become a national epidemic. What do you want someone struggling with feelings of low self-worth to understand?

My instinct is to respond, “You are worthy! You are unique and there is no one else in this world just like you and this world needs you and the skills and talents YOU have because each one of us has been given a specific purpose to use these talents and gifts and no one can replace you.”

But I also have been in a place that I have felt extreme unworthiness and insecurity. I know that if I heard someone say that I’d doubt what those talents or gifts were, because I wasn’t like everyone else. To that I say, “Would being like everyone else make you happy? Would going against who you are, what sparks interest and joy inside of you just to get others attention bring you joy? Most likely not.”

In this day and age of social media, self-worth is defined by the number of followers we have on Instagram or how many ‘likes’ they give to your posts. It is important to realize that those are numbers and most of those people have so many numbers because they ‘follow’ and ‘like’ everyone just to get more numbers. When it comes down to knowing you, who knows you best?

You, my friend, are worthy of life and others would be so lucky to know you, who you really are and share in the gifts and talents you’ve been given.

What is your goal with Hopeful Hearts Ministry and what motivated you to start it?

Hopeful Hearts Ministry strives to help those who have suffered abuse not just survive, but thrive.

When I was called into speaking on a national and international level on various topics regarding faith, the most popular message I gave, the one that resonated best with audiences at least, was when I spoke of my own personal journey, the abuse I incurred and how I overcame the stigma of shame attached.

As the years progressed and my voice became stronger, God led me to more and more opportunities to work with survivors of all ages, especially those in my generation and generations ahead of me who were taught to keep skeletons in the closet. It became very clear that there was a desperate need to empower all survivors to have a voice, to educate the world on what abuse is, to teach others how to listen to those who have suffered abuse, and to learn how to stop the generational cycle of abuse. In 2012 a dear friend of mine said to me, “Why don’t you start a non-profit? Think what more you could do.” Hence, Hopeful Hearts Ministry was formed.

Every dollar earned from the book EXPOSED, the HOPEFUL HEARTS CHARM, SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS, RETREATS, ETC goes toward the Hopeful Hearts Ministry. We are a 501 c3 National Non-Profit

Tell us about the I Have a Voice project and the feedback you have received from viewers.

In 2013, I realized the importance of a survivor speaking truth and being heard. I decided to create the I Have a Voice YouTube video series, revealing 5 emotionally-charged personal stories of survivors of abuse. This hope-filled project consists of intensely moving interrelated videos, all with a collective purpose to help victims to overcome their past and be empowered to move forward. Men and women have responded as a result of the videos, expressing their gratitude in knowing they are not alone. They are empowered to move forward in their lives. Since 2013 we have added 2 more I Have a Voice Videos.

From one male viewer:

I came across your website yesterday and was very moved to listen to your short YouTube video “I Have a Voice – Childhood sexual abuse and forgiveness”.

Your sharing of your story, your truth, was very powerful. I especially liked the part where you defended the (any) abused child by saying “it’s not right” (to take away the voice of a child).

That really hit home and I was moved by your honesty, courage, and willingness to stand up for and speak out on behalf of the abused child. ~ James, TX


This may be used with permission and credit given to Shannon Deitz 2015.








Domestic Violence Abuse Awareness

Survivors of abuse, both men and women, are not fragile individuals. They are strong, worthy individuals who have overcome a great amount of suffering whether it was physical, sexual, or verbal. Every single form of abuse affects the person emotionally, lowering their self-esteem and sense of worth. Often survivors hide or bury the facts and the deep effects of the abuse out of fear, shame, and lack of support. The best way for a survivor to heal from the affects of the abuse is to give a voice to what has been done or said to them; to be heard and to know they are supported and loved.  Below is helpful information for all of us who know a survivor.

Giving a Voice to Domestic Abuse Survivors
Whether they were a child, teenager or an adult, domestic abuse causes the victim(s) to keep quiet out of shame, fear and guilt. A victim needs the ability to speak about what is or has been done to them without question or judgment.

Frozen rather than Fight or Flight
When in danger, we often assume the natural response is to fight back or run. However, when abuse is involved (sexual or physical), there are scientific neurological studies that prove a ‘frozen’ response takes place as a result of the flood of adrenaline and hormones.

They literally can’t think to run, fight or even scream. When survivors of child abuse, sexual assault, or domestic abuse understand this, it helps to ease the undeserved shame of the victim. It also helps validate the victim who is struggling with “why they stayed or let it happen”.

Triggers and Repressed Memories
Survivors of domestic abuse are often survivors of abuse as a children or teens and have often suppressed their abuse. Overcoming and escaping a domestic abusive situation can often unlock these memories.
Counseling is Key in Healing Process
Survivors of abuse are 3x more likely to suffer depression. Given an outlet to talk about the abuse releases the shame, fear and feelings of unworthiness. Talking to a counselor can help guide them through the healing process.

The healing process for an abuse survivor is similar to that of someone suffering grief. They need to feel safe, experiencing the sadness of the loss of their childhood innocence, their virginity or security, whatever it is the abuse took from them. Then they need to have the freedom to experience righteous anger and eventually be led down the path to forgiveness of both the perpetrator and themselves.

Don’t be Afraid to Help a Survivor of DMV Create an Escape Plan
Survivors want to know they will be safe and protected. Many have no idea what the first step should be or where they should turn. Find the nearest shelter and walk with them on the journey to make an escape plan.

Survivors Can Live a Normal Life
If you have suffered any form of abuse at any point in your life, you can overcome its debilitating effects. The more you talk about what has been done to you, the more you will heal. Although it will never ‘disappear’ from your past, it will be a chapter of your life that can be closed. The more you keep the shame, guilt and fear locked away, the more power you continue to give the perpetrator and the more likely you will continue to remain their victim.

Abuse Doesn’t Define a Survivor
Often survivors take on what has been done to them as a part of who they are and they live in a victim mentality feeling as if nothing good will ever happen to them, that they are unworthy or not good enough.

For more information visit www.HopefulHeartsMinistry.com

I Have a Voice

Bringing Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse Survivors Out of the Shadows

about shannon2Few problems are so pervasive, yet shrouded in secrecy, as domestic violence and sexual abuse. The statistics are staggering. They are reflected across every demographic. Nearly one in every four women is beaten or raped by a partner during adulthood. One in every four girls and nearly one in every six boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18—but until recent years, these widespread problems were rarely made public. This October, in conjunction with Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Shannon Deitz, author, speaker, and founder of Hopeful Hearts Ministry, is inviting abuse survivors to step out of the shadows and bring their stories to light.
Through the I Have a Voice project, Dietz encourages survivors of domestic violence to give voice to their past. The I Have a Voice project consists of seven intensely moving interrelated videos, all with a collective purpose to help survivors

• recognize the abuse they have suffered and expose the truth;
• understand that they are not alone and that the abuse does not define them; and
• overcome being a victim and realize the full potential of their lives.

True-life scenarios shared in the videos include stories of rape, incest, sexual abuse by clergy, domestic violence, and severe neglect. Each emotionally-charged testimony in the series clearly speaks of the courageous journey back to wholeness as well as the devastating effects of the abuse—particularly when that abuse occurred at the hands of a family member. “Being abused by a stranger is bad enough, but being hurt by someone who claims to love you or who is obligated to take care of you is worse,” explains Deitz. “It’s one of the main factors that keeps victims imprisoned in shame and secrecy.”

In one of the first videos, Deitz relives the heartrending memories and feelings related to the abuse she endured by her own grandfather. By allowing herself to be vulnerable and honest during the filming, she believes that others may be stirred to open up about their own “secret” and move past feelings of victimization to focus on the things gained through the adversity. “Abuse changes things forever, but healing is possible if the choice is made to overcome the victim mentality and work hard to become a survivor,” Deitz stresses.

The videos also raise public awareness by demonstrating both the prevalence and the insidious nature of abuse. “Most people don’t realize that domestic violence rarely begins with actual violence. More often, it starts with emotional and verbal abuse, which erodes self-confidence and self-worth and causes the victims to question their instincts,” Dietz says. “The weaker the victim, the more dominant the abuser becomes. Ultimately, this dominance turns to violence when the victim begins to show signs of strength and defiance. This is why the highest rate of domestic violence fatalities occur when the victim has left the abuser.”

Hopeful Hearts Ministry has heard from survivors in Africa, Poland, England, Scotland, Ireland, Canada and across the US. Each video gives a survivor the opportunity to speak about their story in their truth, discarding the shame that they have carried but was never really theirs. Viewers recognize their own story in the voice of other survivors, and the videos are encouraging them to speak out about the abuses they’ve suffered and to seek help if needed.

“I simply want to say thank you for sharing your story…through the HHM website, Exposed, other resources shared, and your powerful I Have a Voice video, you have given fresh insight to my own dimly lit and locked up places of shame and victimization,” says Lauren, a 24-year-old abuse survivor. “Your I Have a Voice video is definitely the most eye-opening [resource] I have seen. I identified with the raw emotion of it.”

The Hopeful Hearts Ministry website guides viewers to a variety of resources designed to help them move forward in their journey of survival, including classes in stretching and relaxation that help abuse survivors manage the stress and paralyzing fear that can be triggered unexpectedly—even years after the abuse has ended.

“I’ve attended the healing stretch classes since mid-September 2014, and I am so thankful. Each time I have had a very positive experience,” says Jennifer, age 42. “The very first class I attended was the day after I was released from the hospital. I had been in a crisis, feeling suicidal, and needed close monitoring during that time. I was terrified to go to a new place, and I was filled with self-hatred. Through stretch and breathing techniques, I experienced a bodily connection to my feelings. I had been separated from my feelings for so long that it was overwhelming to reconnect in such a positive way.”

For those who want to help a friend or family member who is living in an abusive situation, Dietz offers this insight: “Remember the dignity and worth of the victim has been worn thin, which is what causes them to stay. Do not add to the abuse by belittling or degrading them because they are unable to see the situation as clearly as you can on the outside.”

Deitz is the award-winning author of Exposed: Inexcusable Me, Irreplaceable Him. She was also recently listed as one of the best authors in Houston by CBS Houston Radio.

For more information about Shannon Deitz and Hopeful Hearts Ministry, please visit www.hopefulheartsministry.com .